Like many other technology and specialty fields, online learning has many terms and abbreviations that might initially seem unfamiliar or confusing. Some familiar terms related to online education and learning are Online Learning, E-Learning, and Distant Learning.
- Online Learning: engaging in learning through the Internet on any device, in real-time, or through recorded or written information.
- E-Learning: simply describes electronic aspects involved in the learning process, such as using computers.
- Distant or Distance Learning: refers to the geographical aspect of learning. Any type of learning from a place different from the instructor is considered distance learning.
Online learning is a type of e-learning because an electronic device is used to deliver information. It is a form of distance learning, as it is done without physically attending classes. In addition, it is convenient for the learner if educational content and activities are delivered via mobile devices like smartphones.
Online Learning Research
Although it may be compelling to innovate just to “keep up with the times,” a more compelling argument can be found in weighing the benefits of shifting to online pedagogy concerning the relative cost of such a move. Literature on online training methods delineates several benefits to offering Internet-based training courses in areas traditionally reserved for in-person training.
More recent research on specific training programs also found that online learning is comparable to in-person training in palliative care, court-appointed advocacy volunteers, examiner training for scoring essays, and certifications for public health workers. These findings suggest that online training effectively conveys the knowledge and skills usually reserved for in-person professional development.
Individual Benefits of Online Training
- Online training could vastly improve the affordability, flexibility, and accessibility of specialized training for learners of different levels.
- Allows clinicians in rural and remote communities to access training that would typically only be offered in larger cities and locales.
- Participants can access the material or replay parts of a lecture they did not understand is unique to online training.
- Online training provides the opportunity to control the pace of learning so that material is presented after the prior material is understood.
- Online training in therapy techniques allows for the standardization of content and repeated practice with the materials.
Systematic Benefits of Online Training
- Buffers against human and financial resource limitations and makes resources widely available in the interests of sustainability.
- Offer a more cost-efficient way to offer training to larger groups.
In traditional, in-person training, the content and tone of the training may differ from session to session based on the trainer's mood or the class's makeup. However, this standardization in online training allows for a more controlled experience and content delivery. This is particularly beneficial when training therapy techniques, that standard assessment has been demonstrated beneficial, or assessment techniques, where subjective ratings may impact the evaluation.
Most importantly, attendees perceive the benefits of online training. For example, in a survey of police officers who were offered professional development through an online system, the benefits of convenience, flexibility, ability to access the training from a remote location, self-directed pacing, and cost-effectiveness were noted by participants. Similar results were reported in a study on child sexual abuse prevention training.
Online Learning for Forensic Psychologists
The goal of continued education in Forensic Psychology is to create competent, ethical practitioners with the expertise to develop relevant, accurate, and credible opinions that inform legal arguments and guide judicial decision-making.
This goal can be reached through online training and continuing education. For example, online programs that guide the administration, scoring, and interpretation of forensic assessment instruments (FAI) are invaluable for individuals who may not access such content because of geographical location, professional and personal schedules, or financial limitations.
The impact of training on forensic evaluations has shown promise for alleviating some of the concerns within the field related to reliability. In addition, research findings highlight that professional practice improves when trained on how to use FAIs.
- Training in violence risk assessment provided evaluators with an increased ability to identify risk and protective factors while increasing the documentation quality.
- Training increased performance on the rating of the HCR-20
- Training improved accuracy in assessment
- More significant variability in ratings from professionals with less experience and less variability among evaluators who had been trained on a specific FAI compared to those who had not